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Cablegate: Tensions in West Timor

VZCZCXRO3112
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #0678 0950240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040240Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8554
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 0942
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2262
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 2981
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 3742
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 0679
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJPI/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JAKARTA 000678

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/ANP
NSC FOR EPHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS ID TT
SUBJECT: TENSIONS IN WEST TIMOR

REF: SURABAYA 0039

1. (U) This message was coordinated with Consulate General
Surabaya and is Sensitive but Unclassified.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Thousands of former refugees all but
brought the West Timor border city of Atambua to a halt by
occupying government offices on April 1. The protesters--who
are demanding assistance from Jakarta--are former East
Timorese who moved to Indonesia in the wake of the conflict
over Timor-Leste's independence in 1999. The protests have
been going on off-and-on for some time and have a bit of a
violent edge. END SUMMARY.

3. (U) PROTESTS IN WEST TIMOR: Thousands of former East
Timorese refugees descended on the local council and social
welfare offices in Atambua, Belu regency (district area),
hard by the border with Timor-Leste on the morning of April
1. The demonstrators were former East Timorese refugees who
became Indonesian citizens after Timor-Leste's 1999
separation from Indonesia.

4. (SBU) According to Mission contacts, demonstrators
demanded that the government disburse compensation funds in
the amount of Rp 4 million (about USD 444) to each family.
According to press reports, Matheus BC Guedes, head of the
Indonesian Citizens and Victims of a Political Choice
Humanitarian Forum, claimed that families only received a
fraction--Rp 503,000 (or about USD 60)--of what had been
promised by the GOI. The head of the East Nusa Tenggara
Social Services Office said several of those demanding
compensation were ineligible because they had not registered
with government authorities.

5. (U) Demonstrators demanded an immediate response from
the central government. They said they would occupy the Belu
legislative council's building "until the government responds
as to when the assistance for the former refugees will be
disbursed," according to the press. In a text message Guedes
sent to journalists, he said demonstrations would continue
until May 2. Guedes explained "We came to Belu not at our
own request, but as political victims."

6. (U) TENSIONS HIGH: The protests had a bit of a violent
edge. According to press reports, demonstrators threw stones
at the government social welfare office, smashing glass
windows. According to Mission contacts, demonstrators
briefly detained the deputy regent (district head) of Belu
and the deputy speaker of the local assembly. One contact
told us her staff saw some of the demonstrators "hit the
deputy house speaker and another person." Via text message,
Guedes told Mission contacts that the demonstrators might
attempt to detain government officials and/or international
NGO workers in order to press for a central government
response. A local official acknowledged in front of
protesters that "it is not easy to call the President in
Jakarta directly."

7. (SBU) INTEGRATION FRUSTRATION: Local contacts say the
situation in Atambua is now calm. Local police are still
visibly guarding the city. However, these types of tensions
bubble up now and then in West Timor. A similar situation
arose in 2005 regarding reintegration funds. Contacts assert
that corruption within the provincial or local government
could be wreaking havoc with the disbursements. Relations
between former East Timorese refugees and local communities
have shown some recent signs of friction in other parts of
West Timor, per reftel.

HUME

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